Thursday, April 12, 2012

Family Crisis

April 11, 2012

Hey Andrea—

I don’t even know where to start tonight. 

I’ll start here--your Grandpa is still in the hospital.  Still in the Critical Coronary Care Unit.

Sometime this morning he “crashed.” 

The doctors cannot explain it, do not know what happened. 

He is not responsive. 

When I whisper to him blink your eyes, with some difficulty he does.  He is trying to focus on who I am. 

I cup the palm of my right hand over the crown of his bald head.  I whisper in his left ear.  This is Sherry.  Close your eyes.  You need to rest.  Let your body heal.  Just know I am here.

The nurses come.  Pull the feeding tube from his nose.  My dad gags.  They poke, they prod, suction him out, he gags, they swab his mouth. He gags.  Tears fall from his eyes. 

I wipe them away with my thumbs. 

I watch his chest rise as the ventilator inflates his lungs. 

A pace line keeps his heart beating.

At 7 a.m. I got a call from his wife he was fine.

At just before 10 a.m. she called again.

“Something bad has happened with your dad.  They think he had a stroke.  I am going to the hospital.” 

“Do you need a ride?” I ask.  I feel her anxiety through the phone.  The need to be there with him NOW.  The need to see for herself what has happened, how bad it is.

“It would take too long for you to get here.” She tells me.  “Just stay where you are and I will call you when I find something out.”

Just stay where you are. 

I cannot sit still. 

I call my sisters, Karen and Linda.  Tell them the news.

I cannot sit still. 

I cannot simply sit and wait with the news my father “crashed”.  He is on a ventilator again.  He has a pace line in is heart.  He is not responsive.

I try to call my sister, Kathy who is with my dad’s wife.

No answer. 

I cannot sit still.

I have to be doing something.

I text my dad’s wife, “I am headed up.”

Meaning to the hospital.

Within seconds she calls me.

“I told you to stay home.  I do not want you there.  I had to deal with all kinds of drama yesterday.  Can’t you just do what I tell you and stay at home.”

I am 10 years old, my stepmother is yelling at me.  I shut down.
“Ok.”  I say.  “When the doctor comes could you put him on the phone so I can hear what he says, too.”

Yesterday my sister Kathy told another sister my dad was thrashing and he had a brain injury.  It was not true.  She is not a reliable source of information.

“You don’t trust me or think I’m smart enough to report back to you kids what is going on with your dad.  Fine.  I’ll put the doctor on.”

Click of the phone.

Stunned.  I sit in my big leather chair.  Paralyzed.

Afraid if that first tear begins to fall…..

Everything I have been building with my dad crumbles.  Sits like the broken bowls, plate, cup pieces, shattered on my dining room table ready to make into mosaics.

I hear nothing from the hospital.  An hour passes.

I cannot sit still.

I call my sister Kathy.  She has nothing to update, and acts snippy towards me.  I ask her if she has changed her flight. If she is going to stay longer.

My dad’s wife has been telling me for two or three days she needs her space back.  Kathy has been joined at her hip since last Thursday.  When Kathy extended her stay another day, she was not happy.  “Kathy needs to go home.”  She told me.  “I need time to myself.  I need to be alone.” 

“Kathy, have you changed your flight again.”  I ask.

“I have.”  She answers.

She is staying.

“Dad’s wife needs her space.  You need to find another place to stay or you need to go back home.”  I tell her.

Kathy answers, “She asked me to stay.”

Apparently Kathy and I have been getting different stories.

Or we interpret them differently.

Kathy has ammunition now and she will run with it.  She will tell everyone I told her she needed to leave.  She will not tell them the rest.  She will create her own drama, and then stand back, smiling, no accountability.   She plays the victim well.

I wait. 

I cannot sit still.

I cannot get information fast enough.

What I get is not what I want to believe.

I have to see for myself.

I have been told to stay at home.

I cannot do that.

Only a few people are allowed in my dad’s room at a time. 

The elevator takes me to the 8th floor.  The doors open to a crowd of family—sisters and brothers—I have not seen in years.  Members of the motorcycle club my father belongs to are there.  The room is full.

Barely out of the elevator, my younger brother, Dale approaches me threateningly.  Jimmy, my stepbrother, flanks him.

“We don’t want no trouble here.”  Dale tells me.

Under attack, I answer.  “I have no idea what you are talking about.  And obviously you do not either.”

“You told Kathy she had to leave.”  Dale tells me.

Who knows what else they have told him. 

“You obviously do not know the whole story.” I tell him.  “You need to back away from me.  Go back over to your wife.”

Sound comes out of his mouth.  I cannot hear what he is saying—other than, “I am not backing away.  I am staying right here.”

His body threatening me.  Wanting a fight.

I see my dad’s wife out of the corner of my eye.  She sees me.  She quickly walks away with my Uncle Ken to my dad’s room.  Does not invite me.

“Back away.”  I tell him again.

He will not.

It is clear I am not wanted here.  Kathy glares at me.  My father’s wife exudes hostility towards me when I am around here.

“This is about me and your father.”  She tells me.

This is about my father.  The fact that he is laying in a bed, a machine breathing for him. 

For me, now, this is only about my father. 

And my need to know he is going to be ok.

I have done everything I can to help my father’s wife, and she turned against me.

I hear her bragging to the bike club friends how she got in to see one of the best personal injury attorneys in Tacoma because of my dad’s connection to me.

Because of who I am.

Under attack, I try to explain what happened from my perspective.

The damage has been done.

No one wants an explanation.

No one wants to put this behind them.

It is a grudge to be born with enormity.

I am the outsider again.

The voices of my childhood drown out my own.

Or try to.

I leave the hospital feeling as if my chest has been ripped open. 

Steve saves me. 

Steve knows me.

He came over, all the way from Issaquah.  Pulled me to the couch, put his arms around me. 

“Tell me what happened.”

I do.  Recount the day, same as I am doing here with you.

He holds me close to him.  Closes his eyes. Listens. 

“Breath.”  He tells me.

And when I can’t, he gives me mouth to mouth resuscitation. 

He reminds me I am a good person.

He reminds me who I have become.

“Promise me you will stay away from the hospital.  Your family is toxic.  They only use you and  hurt you.  Promise me you will work in your garden, pull weeds, harvest the last of the carrots, plant the Pacific Crabapple tree I gave you.”

“I need to be with my dad.”

“You need to be with yourself.  You need to protect yourself.”  Steve tells me. 

“Breath.”  He says.  “Hold it in.  Release.”

“You are a good person, Sherry.”

I am a good person.

I need to write  I am a good person on a page of college lined paper 100 times, 1000 times, 10,000 times, a million times.

Until I believe it.

You whisper through me.

It will be ok.

I love you Andrea--Mom